Mothers of Innovation

mother and baby with rockin hoodBeing a mum can be a real boost to your creativity. I have huge admiration for mums who spot a niche for a new product, then go ahead and bring it to market themselves.

Mothers Of Innovation was created by Sarah Dawnay to bring together mums who are selling a product they have developed themselves and parents who want to buy quirky, ethical and innovative items for their children.

Sarah is the inventor of the Rockin Hood, a fast alternative to a coat for babies who object to wearing sleeves! Having wrestled a wriggling child into a coat many times, I might just get one myself..

If you’re thinking of developing your own product, check out Sarah’s blog post Hints For Mumpreneurs where she shares her own experience of developing and manufacturing the Rockin Hood.

 

Stuck for an original business idea?

Then you need to take a look at Iddictive. Every day, Iddictive gives you a new cool, quirky or innovative business idea.

How about a travel agency for  soft toys? Or the Kidspotter – a rentable device that enables you to track the position of your children when at a theme park or shopping centre? You’ve heard of mumpreneurs, how about being a retropreneur too? (That’s someone who gives an old-style business idea a new lease of life).

Brilliant for sparking a fresh idea  or spotting a new trend.

Work/Life Balance: Do We Really Need It?

One great thing about work/life balance is it reminds employers that we have a life outside work. I'm all for that.

But beyond that I'm not so sure. Ruth Billheimer of Virtual Balance emailed me today to ask if I could fill in her survey. She'd noticed that people are seeking fulfillment in their work rather than balance and wanted to know more.

I've had two babies in the last two years, so I'm still trying to thrash out what my new work and life will look like. As for balance, well I'm totally unbalanced  – my life is 90% babies and 10% business. 'Me' time? I'm lucky if I get time to plug in a hairdryer these days!

Unable to make a meaningful contribution to Ruth's survey, I thought I'd write this post instead.

The times in my life that have been the least balanced have also been the most productive. Like the time when I worked full-time and studied part-time at the same time, or now, being mum to a 22 month old and a 6 month old. Intense times, but times that are really rewarding as well as shattering, frustrating and challenging (in a good way).

I've noticed this in other people too. When I used to hang out with physicists  (that doesn't make me a bad person, see 'the best advice I have ever been given' if you want me to explain… ) the best scientists weren't the ones that had balance in their lives, in fact they were the ones  who were bordering on being obsessed.

I know there's more to life than achieving things, but it does suggest that aiming for balance isn't going to guarantee success or even satisfaction.

From time to time I read about someone who feels her (it's almost always a 'her') life is out of balance. She thinks that if all the different parts of her life rolled along in harmony she'd be happier. I think that misses the point. If you put your efforts into making all the aspects of your life cancel each other out, life might just pass you by.

Much better to accept that life is a rollercoaster and enjoy the ride. During the frantic times you could feel stressed, stretched, challenged, a sense of satisfaction, confusion, fear, proud of yourself, focussed. During the quieter times you might feel relaxed, calm, frustrated, bored, as if you're going nowhere, peaceful, demotivated.

Calm isn't necessarily better than being frantically busy. Both states have their good parts and their bad parts. Of course you need to take care of your relationship and your health or you'll be heading for divorce or worse.  Being a workaholic and hardly ever spending time with your children would be a terrible shame. If you're working too hard and it's making you unhappy, change it if you can.

But if we actually balanced our lives, I'm not sure we'd be any happier than we are now.

Live your life, don't try to iron it flat.

Do you have any thoughts? Drop me a comment!

Creative Commons License photo credit: stachelig

Where’s The Money Gone?

If you look at your bank balance at the end of the month and ask yourself, ‘Where’s the money gone?’ read on. In this article we look a couple of ideas to stop the drain of cash from your account.

Payment protection insurance

Did you sign up for payment protection insurance when you took out a loan or credit card? Payment protection insurance (PPI) is designed to help cover your repayments if you have an accident, are ill, or become unemployed. However in past years people have been missold this insurance You may have been told that it is compulsory, which it isn’t, or been sold the insurance when you have cover elsewhere. If you are a pensioner, self employed or unemployed, you may have wrongly been sold insurance against becoming unemployed. And you can be paying out pounds every month for this cover.

Check your own circumstances by reading the paperwork with your load or credit card. If you think you have been missold PPI you can reclaim what you have paid. There are template letters to help you do this on Money Saving Expert. The site can also help you work out if you are getting a good deal on the insurance that you DO need: insurance offered with a loan or card is often dearer than an independent product.

Direct Debits

Another way to save money is to look through the direct debits and standing orders that you have. If you have online banking you should be able to check this instantly, or simply take the time to go through your bank statement. If you can’t identify where the money is going, ask your bank to help. You my find that you are still paying out for subscriptions that you no longer need. Cancel these by writing to your bank.  The Direct Debit guarantee also means that if the originator or the bank/building society makes an error you are guaranteed a full and immediate refund of the amount paid. So, get in touch with the bank if you think that money is coming out of your account in error.

Council tax rebanding

Council tax takes a big chunk out of everyone’s monthly income, and it is relatively simple to see if you are paying a fair amount or whether it is worth asking for a council tax reband. The first thing to do is check out your neighbours’ banding to see if you are all paying around the same amount or if some houses on your street are in a lower band than yours. Look on the Valuation Office Agency website in England, and in Scotland use the Scottish Assessors Association. Then, work out what your house was worth in 1991 to get an idea of the correct band.   If you think you are paying more than neighbours with a similar property, get in touch with your Local Listing Officer. Make sure that you’re sure that your property is overvalued, though, as they can also put you up a band!

This article is by Gemma Johnson, co-founder of www.babeecard.com

Winner of Mumpreneur of the year 2009 sponsored by WBMN

BaBeeCard Winner of Best Gift Card Award 2009 by Prepaid365.com